A few days ago I wrote a long multi-post responding to the dumbing-down and memeification of political discourse, particularly from Erin O'Toole, and posted several of his insipid graphics as exhibits. It was well-received but a few people noticed a problem as well. #cdnpoli 1/12
Several replies, particularly from @Proy_TO (credit where due) noted I was signal-boosting this content. That's a fair point. Sometimes, scrolling through, we see the same dumb thing posted and reposted. And no matter the motive in reply, we still keep seeing it. #cdnpoli 2/12
Memes are dangerous for exactly this reason. It's part of why memeification works. If someone's attention only takes in the graphic, and not my text above it saying "here's how this is lying to you" then by posting the graphic at all I'm spreading O'Toole's message. #cdnpoli 3/12
At the extreme, it's even been pointed out to me that I'm reaching people who may have blocked O'Toole, or otherwise curated their social media to avoid seeing right-wing content, and I'm bringing it in like a Trojan Horse. #cdnpoli 4/12
And yet, what's the alternative? I firmly believe political silos are part of the problem. We are all guilty there. When we control what we see and who we speak with too closely, we all stop speaking the same language at all. Stop even believing in the same facts. #cdnpoli 5/12
Also buried in the various discussions that took place were unexpected agreements across political lines, appetite at least for complexity. And a few fair questions - is O'Toole really pitching simplistic and dumbed-down politics, or just playing to the medium here? #cdnpoli 6/12
In reply I'd say Twitter doesn't need to be simplistic. If I can manage more, and reach a wide audience with it, surely O'Toole's paid staff can do the same. And maybe there's an audience waiting for that, too. I really don't believe all conservatives are stupid. #cdnpoli 7/12
If there's a risk of signal-boosting a message I don't agree with, I think that's a risk worth taking. Protecting ourselves from dissenting views doesn't make politics better - it just ends the conversation. And I do believe there's potential for conversation, here. #cdnpoli 8/12
This goes back to what we're all here for. If we're just the cheering sections for our various political teams it's only a competition to yell loudest. When real discussion happens it's among adults somewhere else, and we're just noisy children. I reject that. #cdnpoli 9/12
I will add this, however. If someone posts something dumb just to get attention, and I repost it saying "look at how this is dumb!" just to get attention - I'm no better. It all contributes to the degradation of our shared political space. And that's to be avoided. #cdnpoli 10/12
Many will say that Twitter isn't for - cannot be for - a complex exchange of ideas around politics. I disagree. At other times I'd be putting a sign on my lawn or lining up for 30 seconds at the microphone in a town hall. Is that really better? #cdnpoli 11/12
Every opportunity to talk with one another is a chance to find common ground. We bridge that divide with complexity, not with slogans. I may risk sharing things you'd rather not see. But I'll at least try to say something worthwhile when I do. That's my promise. #cdnpoli 12/12

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More from @JeffRybak

23 Sep
I've been asked about electoral reform. I absolutely support reform. For those unfamiliar with the issue, the way we elect our Members of Parliament (provincially and federally) is badly skewed. It creates false majorities not at all reflective of the popular vote. #cdnpoli 1/22
There are, of course, different ways the system could change. Lots of them. One of the reasons reform is so hard is that folks who advocate moving to X end up fighting with those who want Y, or Z, even though all of them agree what we have now is bad. #cdnpoli 2/22
I won't push for a specific system here. Best thing I ever heard on this topic is that any system to achieve a more proportional outcome is better than what we have, and it would be easier to move from that to anything else later on. So let's at least do something. #cdnpoli 3/22
Read 23 tweets
19 Sep
I write a lot about politics, and I get many replies. I'm a Liberal and I'm clear about that. But I disagree strongly with a "my team, right or wrong" attitude towards politics. So I'd like to explain why I dislike some replies I receive from my own "team." #cdnpoli 1/12
I don't think Conservatives are evil. I don't think they are trying to corrupt our country. I don't think they are just like Trump who is just like <insert extreme example here>. I don't think we need to defeat them at all costs to save ourselves from destruction. #cdnpoli 2/12
Doing anything "at all costs" in politics is a mutual destruction pact. It guarantees we twist every tool available until the foundation of our democracy is broken. And yes, some people feel their cause is so urgent it's worth it, on all sides. They're wrong. #cdnpoli 3/12
Read 14 tweets
11 Sep
Erin O'Toole has finally pissed me off enough to motivate a multi-post. Because his memeification of political discourse really deserves a reply, and unlike O'Toole I actually believe that people are willing to read and think about more than eight words in a row. #cdnpoli 1/12
Here's exhibit A. Rights are good, yes? Preserving them must be good too. But any semi-intelligent conversation about rights acknowledges they exist in tension with one another, and must be carefully defined. There is no right to "do well and prosper." #cdnpoli 2/12
It's true when government collects taxes and spends money, it's taking from some to spend on others. There's that tension. So my right to keep what's "mine" butts up against someone else's right to access public health care, and we can't all get what we want. #cdnpoli 3/12
Read 13 tweets
7 Sep
There is a lot of talk about how two or more crises are over-lapping right now - #Covid19 along with #BLM protests, the drive to defund police, political unrest in the U.S. etc. But there isn't enough discussion about overlap with growing wealth inequality. #cdnpoli #onpoli 1/11
It's well-established that racialized communities, immigrants, and poorer Canadians are bearing the brunt of #Covid19. Minimum-wage workers are "essential" while highly paid professionals (inc. myself) work from home. The contradiction is obvious. #cdnpoli #onpoli 2/11
We've become used to the idea that money makes everything easier. Why shouldn't it? Well-off families pay for private tutoring with similarly privileged children, while everyone else send their kids back to unprepared public schools. Ever thus, right? #cdnpoli #onpoli 3/11
Read 11 tweets
23 Aug
I've been absent from Twitter for a while, where I am mainly active on #onpoli and #cdnpoli topics, and some have commented on my return. It's made me think about why I took a break and what's frustrating me. So this is a self-indulgent multi-post explaining what's up. 1/11
I worry that we're losing the room for nuance and self-reflection in our politics. American politics are a vivid illustration of what happens when that gets extreme. There's so much of "my political team, right or wrong" going on. It makes me tired and sad. #onpoli #cdnpoli 2/11
Where is the room to say I'm frustrated with the lapses of judgment in the Trudeau government, in and around #WEcharity, without suggesting I think the entire government is corrupt? #onpoli #cdnpoli 3/11
Read 11 tweets
31 Mar
This #covid19on pandemic invites all of us to reexamine our values and priorities - both personally, and how they are expressed in politics. Conservatives have accepted massive public spending, much of it on "socialist" causes, because that's what's needed right now. #onpoli 1/5
Those on the left (I include myself) need to accept another hard truth. Government can't solve everything. It's often the best and fairest solution, but it can't function alone. At some point, personal responsibility and even private charity are needed too. #onpoli #covid19on 2/5
Premier Ford is invoking conservative values when he asks - and sometimes demands - that private individuals, companies, etc. step up, and not leave this solely to government. I agree. And I'm tired of seeing so many negative comments in reply. #onpoli #covid19on 3/5
Read 5 tweets

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